Japan name side for World Cup opener

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph has selected his team for the opening match of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, with Michael Leitch becoming the second player to captain the country at two global tournaments, following Takuro Miuchi.

The flanker is one of eight players in Japan’s matchday squad who were also in the 23 that defeated South Africa in the Brave Blossoms’ RWC 2015 opener.

Like Leitch, Shota Horie and Kotaro Matsushima started then and will start in the RWC 2019 opener on Friday. Fumiaki Tanaka, Luke Thompson and Hendrik Tui started then and will be replacements at Tokyo Stadium. Keita Inagaki and Yu Tamura were replacements then.

Tamura has made more test appearances (20) for the Brave Blossoms during Joseph’s tenure as Japan boss than any other player. Named in the starting XV, Tamura will extend that number to 21.

Luke Thompson could become the oldest player to represent Japan in the competition. At 38, he is the oldest player at RWC 2019. Should he come off the bench, Thompson will surpass Hitoshi Ono, who was 37 when he played for the Brave Blossoms four years ago.

Thompson could become the first player to feature for Japan in four World Cups. Yukio Motoki was also part of four RWC squads, but was an unused sub in 1991.

Winger Kotaro Matsushima has recorded at least one try in five of his last six test appearances, with a total of six.

Japan: 15 William Tupou, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Lomano Lava Lemeki, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Michael Leitch (c), 5 James Moore, 4 Wimpie van der Walt, 3 Asaeli Ai Valu, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Isileli Nakajima, 18 Jiwon Koo, 19 Luke Thompson, 20 Hendrik Tui, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Ryohei Yamanaka

Date: Friday, September 20 Venue: Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo Kick-off: 19:45 local (11:45 BST, 10:45 GMT) Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales) Assistant Referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Matthew Carley (England) TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)